Politics & Government

Stories about politics and government actions

donkey and elephant standing on american flag
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump face off in their first presidential debate tonight.

One Michigan group hopes to hear the candidates discuss “family economic” issues.

It’s like November in September as absentee ballots in Michigan are in the mail and, for some, voting has already begun.

If history is any guide, about a quarter of Michigan voters will vote using an absentee ballot, even though some will probably lie to do it because not everyone can legally cast an absentee ballot in Michigan.

A Tesla electronic car at a charging station
Austin Kirk / creative commons http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

This Week in Review, Jack and I look at a lawsuit in which Michigan and 20 other states seek to block a new federal rule that expands overtime eligibility for white-collar workers.

We also discuss a bill that would require more transparency from state lawmakers, and electronic car maker Tesla's lawsuit against the state of Michigan.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A year after Flint's tap water was exposed as a source of dangerous levels of lead, residents are still grappling with the man-made public health crisis.

  A year ago Saturday, doctors discovered high amounts of the toxin in children and warned against using the Flint River water. Local health officials declared an emergency and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder confirmed there were "serious issues."

  In addition criminal investigations, the crisis has sparked congressional hearings, lawsuits and scrutiny of lead testing across the country.

Stateside 9.23.2016

Sep 23, 2016

Today, in the next rendition of Songs from Studio East, we hear ancient Ethiopian music with a modern twist. And, we learn about headwraps, including why people wear them and what's behind the politics of dress.

Citizens at a public event last year expressed some concern about making Battle Creek a military target. But more were interested in the potential jobs the missile complex may deliver.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

All of the Michigan congressional delegation -- with the exception of Congressman Justin Amash -- signed a letter urging the Missile Defense Agency to locate interceptor missiles at Fort Custer near Battle Creek.

Amash said he didn’t sign the letter because it emphasized economic reasons rather than military ones. He basically said those decisions should be based on military necessity. Fort Custer is one of three final sites being considered. The other two are Camp Ravenna in Ohio and Fort Drum in New York.

These interceptor missiles are called the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system- GMD for short. They’re designed to intercept incoming nuclear missiles. However, the problem is that the GMD system is flawed. The L.A. Times reported during tests the interceptors failed to destroy their targets six out of eleven times. That’s a dismal record when the job is to intercept nuclear missiles from North Korea, or Russia, or another hostile country. Despite the failure rate, the manufacturer got a $2 billion bonus.

Attorney General Bill Schuette
Bill Schuette


It's time for another political roundup with Ken Sikkema and Susan Demas​.

Attorney General Bill Schuette joined a lawsuit this week to try to block an overtime pay rule that came out of Washington.

It would require businesses to pay overtime to salary workers who earn less than $47,500 a year. That’s up from about $24,000.

According to Sikkema, “Any of these federal regulations that deal with pay, whether it’s minimum wage or whether it’s overtime pay, are going to be looked at skeptically by Republicans. [Schuette] is not the only one.”

Garbage truck in Flint.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint city council is asking a judge for an injunction to stop the city’s mayor from cancelling a contract with the city’s trash hauler.

Capitol Building, Washington D.C.
Bobby Mikul / Flickr creative commons

Congress has to ensure the federal government is funded past September 30 by its October recess. But Flint's ongoing water crisis is standing in the way of Republicans and Democrats coming to an agreement. 

NPR's Ailsa Chang reports that Democrats in Congress want money to help Flint, Michigan to be included in a government aid bill for Louisiana and other states dealing with flood relief. 

Stateside 9.22.2016

Sep 23, 2016

Today, we discuss what really happened at Kinross prison on September 10 -- was it a riot, a disturbance? And, we hear about a Detroit graffiti case and the blurred line between political speech and crime.

Researchers at Virginia Tech received samples of Flint water (both clear and discolored) from residents. Dr. Edwards and his team there were among the first to call attention to lead contamination in Flint's water.
Flint Water Study / Facebook

Governor Rick Snyder is boosting the position of Michigan chief medical executive to his official inner circle. The governor says he wants to streamline how critical public health information reaches him. That was one of the problems identified by a task force that looked into how the Flint water crisis occurred.

In the-not-too-distant past, chief medical executive in the Snyder administration was a part-time job. Now, the governor is elevating it to a cabinet-level position reporting directly to him.

The former Hudson's site, prime real estate along Woodward in the heart of downtown Detroit, has been a city-owned underground parking garage since the Hudson's building was demolished in 1998.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A state Senate committee gave its unanimous approval this week to a package of state tax incentives that could allow developers to capture state sales and income taxes to help pay for large development projects in Michigan.

This "brownfield legislation" is something that developers like Dan Gilbert are pushing hard for as the package goes to the full Senate for consideration. Brownfield sites are often abandoned industrial sites that would require a significant clean-up and a major financial investment. 

How would this legislation work? And since it appears to be a case of "picking winners and losers," is this something Gov. Rick Snyder will support? 

MDOC Spokesperson Chris Gautz told us that while it was “a very serious situation,” the events of September 10 at Kinross Correctional Facility don’t meet the definition of a “riot.”
flickr user Thomas Hawk / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0


On September 10, there was an uprising at Kinross Correctional Facility in the Upper Peninsula.

According to the Michigan Department of Corrections, it’s the most serious incident inside a Michigan prison anyone can recall since the 1981 riot at what was then called Southern Michigan Prison in Jackson.

Inside the Michigan Capitol looking up at the dome.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan legislators are turning their attention from away lawmaking to campaigning.

State lawmakers have a couple days on their calendar next month, but for the most part, Michigan legislators will be busy campaigning.

But as state lawmakers leave Lansing, there’s still more to do on the legislative agenda.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley says it’s a common problem nearing the end of a legislative term. State lawmakers leave to campaign for re-election and leave thousands of bills waiting for action.

photo by Vincent Duffy / Michigan Radio

Lawmakers need to be more transparent. That was the message sent by the House today when it approved bills to expand Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The bi-partisan bills would open state lawmakers and the governor to freedom of information requests. Those offices are currently exempt. They would create what they are calling the Legislative Open Records Act, which is a FOIA specifically for the legislature.

Stateside 9.21.2016

Sep 21, 2016

Today, amid national tension, we learn how one sheriff works to implement changes in training and community outreach. And, we hear how an ArtPrize installation unveils stories of human trafficking in Michigan.


Michigan is one of 21 states seeking to block the Obama administration's efforts to make more white-collar workers eligible for overtime pay.

The coalition of states filed suit Tuesday in federal court in Texas asking the court to stop a new U.S. Department of Labor rule from taking effect on December 1.  

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups also filed a legal challenge to the rule on the same day.

Inside the capitol in Lansing, Michigan
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Spending by lobbyists at the state capitol is on pace to break last year’s record.

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network reports lobbyists reported spending $21.7 million during the first seven months of 2016. During the same period last year, lobbyists spent $21 million.   

In all of 2015, lobbyists reported spending a record $38.7 million wooing Michigan lawmakers. 

Jack Lessenberry
Michigan Radio

This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry and Doug Tribou talk about a sudden rule change that takes away Flint's power to sue the state over the city's lead-tainted drinking water crisis.

Lessenberry and Tribou also discuss Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson's plan to keep out Syrian refugees and a push to strengthen lead regulations in Michigan before Election Day. 

The Michigan State Capitol
user aunt owwee / Flickr

Michigan is one of two states that completely exempts the governor's office from the state's Freedom of Information Act.

Massachusetts is the other. Michigan's public records law also exempts the Legislature, one of a minority of states to do so.

That could change under a package of bills being voted on by the House today.

Plastic bag
user Newtown grafitti / Flickr -- http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

LANSING, Mich. - Efforts to rid Michigan communities of plastic shopping bags would be banned under a bill set to advance in the Republican-led Legislature.

The House Commerce and Trade Committee could vote on the legislation Tuesday. The measure won Senate approval in May.

The bill would prohibit local governments from enacting ordinances that regulate, prohibit or impose a fee on the use or sale of "auxiliary containers" - which is defined as reusable or single-use bags, cups, bottles or other packaging from stores and restaurants.

Stateside 9.19.2016

Sep 19, 2016

Today, we check in with Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha a year after she proved elevated lead levels in Flint kids correlated with the switch to Flint River water. And, Michigan Radio's sports commentator breaks down the Lions' home opener.

According to the report, if Michigan lawmakers don't appropriate $7.5 million, the state could lose $20.5 million in matching federal funds for child care.
U.S. Army / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

Any parent can tell you that child care is one of the biggest challenges a family can face. A new report finds that Michigan can do better in helping families who need day care. A LOT better. 

Michigan's missed out on tens of millions of federal dollars that could help more parents and kids access quality child care. In fact, if state lawmakers don't commit another $7.5 million to child care by the end of this month, Michigan will lose $20.5 million in matching federal funds.

Michigan’s 1st Congressional District is huge - almost 25,000 square miles - and it is where, with the pending retirement of Republican Congressman Dan Benishek, former Marine Corps General Jack Bergman – a Republican – is facing former Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lon Johnson.

The city of Flint is slowly replacing damaged lead service lines. But city officials say they need money from the federal government to pay for much of the work.
steve carmody / Michigan Radio

This week, the U.S. House of Representative could vote on spending billions of dollars to fix the nation’s crumbling municipal water systems.

Last week, the U.S. Senate passed a $10 billion bill that included $100 million specifically to replace Flint’s damaged pipes. The pipes have been leaching lead into the city’s drinking water.

But U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint, is concerned the House legislation does not include money earmarked for Flint.

Longtime Macomb Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco.
Macomb County

A typically low-profile county office has become one of the most high-stakes political contests in Michigan this year.

It’s the race for Macomb County public works commissioner.

Republican Candice Miller is leaving her seat in Congress to challenge Democrat Anthony Marrocco, a longtime incumbent, for the post.

“This could be one of the most expensive races, if not the most expensive race, that happens on the state or local level this fall,” said Craig Mauger, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Stateside 9.16.2016

Sep 16, 2016

Today, we hear how private donations can influence public policy. And we learn there's a wide racial divide in Metro Detroit when it comes to how people view police.

Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell says the opportunity is a "game-changer" when it comes to how the city approaches its future.
Michigan Municipal League / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

As soon as next week, the details of the Foundation for Excellence's $70 million gift will be presented to the Kalamazoo City Commission

The city manager and the mayor have been working with the donors to determine how it will work. 

Some city commissioners have been expressing reservations about the gift since it was announced this summer. Matt Milcarek​ is one of them.

According to Craig Mauger, Meijer was one of several entities that donated to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee on the day a senate panel began considering whether to block local plastic bag regulation.
Wikimedia Commons / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The first line of a release from the Michigan Campaign Finance Network reads:

"The same day a Senate panel began considering whether to block local efforts to curb the use of plastic bags, the Senate Republican Campaign Committee reported receiving a $20,000 contribution from the political action committee of one of Michigan's largest retailers."

According to MCFN executive director Craig Mauger, that retailer is Meijer. 

flickr user Gage Skidmore/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A new poll by Epic MRA on behalf of the Detroit Free Press and other news media outlets across the state shows that Donald Trump has cut into Hillary Clinton's lead in Michigan. 

Clinton still leads, but with 38% compared to Trump's 35%. 

Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party presidential candidate, is also gaining ground with 10%.